Crew: Emerson

LANCASTER – JB312 OF-A, lost 21 February 1944
The Lancaster crashed on the edge of Bourn airfield, the entire crew was killed.

 

CREW
Pilot:  Roderick Stanley Emerson
Flight Engineer: Albert Joseph Newell
Navigator: Irwin Worth
Bomb Aimer: John Arthur Bartholomew
W/Op: Robert James Dickie
Mid-Upper Gunner: Geoffrey Walter Wood, ‘Geoff’
Rear gunner: William Garfield Duncan, ‘Billy’

 

Emerson - Geoffrey Wood
Geoffrey Wood

 

Emerson - William Duncan2
Billy Duncan
THE GUNNERS

Both Wood and Duncan came from other crews. Wood had originally flown with Johnny Sauvage’s crew. In the case of William Duncan, he had been on McEgan‘s crew, missed the fatal night when the crew was lost, but survived them only another two months.

Contemporary Diary, Entry concerning the Loss of A-Apple
by John Fairbairn, W/Op on Perkins’ crew
Feb 20-21 Stuttgart
… home 6.30. Mac and I watched Apple come in with belly shot away, stalled and burned on approach.
(Mac is almost certainly M H McBride, the rear gunner on the crew at that time.)

 

Emerson - loss report JB312
Loss Report for Aircraft

It is hoped that a better quality image of this letter can be obtained, but basically it advises that the Lancaster not only collided with another aircraft over the target, but may also have sustained flak damage.  It lost its H2S blister, the fuselage was badly damaged and the flaps were also damaged. The journey home must have been an absolute nightmare. It is a tragedy that the crew did not bale out over England; more than anything, perhaps, this demonstrates aircrews’ reluctance to trust their lives to a parachute.

 

OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK
21.2.44

Flight Listing JB312A  F/L R.S.Emerson, F/Sgt J.Newell, F/O I.Worth, P/O J.A.Bartholomew, W/O R.Dickie, F/Sgt W.Duncan, F/Sgt G.W.Wood.
Up 0015  Down 0740.  4 flares, 4 x TI, 1 x 4000lb, 5 x 1000lb.  Successfully bombed target.  Collision with another aircraft over target and damage from flak.  Aircraft crashed on landing at base at Bourn airfield.  All of the crew were killed.

F/Lt R.S.Emerson and crew crashed on approaching to land on the runway – there were no survivors.  The aircraft had circled and been in touch with Control by R/T.  The captain stated that they were in difficulty, having collided over the target with another aircraft.  The aircraft was considerably damaged which no doubt was the cause of the aircraft diving into the ground some 300 yards short of the runway.  The aircraft was burnt and wreckage strewn about – seven bodies taken to SSQ Bourn.

24.2.44    
Flying training etc carried out as per schedule.  In the morning the funeral took place at Cambridge Cemetery at 1100 hours, of those killed in the crash.  The following were buried :- F/L R.S.Emerson, P/O I.Worth (Aus) Nav, P/O J.A.Bartholomew A/B, W/O R.Dickie W/Op (Can), F/Sgt G.W.Wood A/G, F/Sgt J.Newell F/E.  Relatives of those living in this country attended.  The Flight Commander, Adjutant and 20 officers and NCO aircrew were also in attendance.  F/Sgt W.Duncan A/G was conveyed to be buried at his home town in Ireland.

 

DES EVANS – Flight Mechanic at Bourn
RECOLLECTIONS, JANUARY 2009
My recollection is seeing Emerson’s Lancaster circling the Airfield low enough for us to see a gaping hole on the Port side of the Fuselage. It had to be that side as it was circling above us and in a left circuit. The reason he had to keep circling was because other Lancasters were waiting to come in, so he had no option but to wait. Obviously Air Control anticipated he was going to have problems and would probably close down the airfield if he came in and crashed blocking the runways.I had difficulty in trying to understand on recollection why we could see him so clearly in mid February at such an early hour. Then it dawned on me when I first saw your request for information. In those days we had Double Summer time and so it would have been light earlier.When he did start his approach he was approaching quite straight, then as he neared the Landing strip I suppose at about 200 feet the Lancaster just folded midway down the fuselarge and fell apart, both section hurtled to the ground. It was an awful sight. These guys could see for at least half an hour before that final approach the runway and all the activity going on and expecting to be with us soon.
My own conclusion for what its worth is because of that gaping hole, the Lancaster was stable as long as Emerson was able to maintain a flying speed; once the approach was being made and the last descent was being put into operation, the Pilot would order his Flight Engineer to throttle back – with that hole in the fuselage he would need both his hands holding the Lancaster on a straight line. The weight of the aircraft would then increase dramatically and the strain with such a large fracture in the fuselage would be too much, hence it would literally break up. As to why they didn’t bale out, it’s possible – as they had been hit by another Lancaster over the target and sustained damage – that perhaps a couple of the crew’s parachutes were damaged. At a height of possibly 20000 feet on a bombing raid a collision ripping a hole could create a suction of a considerable force – anything loose near the hole would be sucked out.

With many thanks to David Layne, Kyt, Kevin Bending, Des Evans, Norah Fairbairn, and Billy Duncan’s niece. Also Henry Pedersen who pointed out the connection between Geoffrey Wood and the Sauvage crew, and that there is a description of Geoff Wood in Eddie Wheeler’s book, Just to get a Bed (page 87). Wheeler writes that Geoff was very shy. He had left the safety of his farm in South America to come to help what amounted to his ancestral homeland. See also his name on the memorial in Magallenes and a biographical note on this page:  Life and Death in the PFF: Aircrew Nationality

"We Guide to Strike", "Achieve Your Aim"